Saturday, November 30, 2019

Front Five - 30.11.19

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

ICYMI click here for our
Glasgow v Leinster preview


 Athletic and seemingly stronger this season, Connors is a renowned chop tackler and a natural, smart openside who runs good support lines.


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

Kinghorn’s crossfield kick picked out Sau and he spun clear of the tackle to put his side 18-16 ahead.


Declan Rooney - The Scotsman

It was a match that Ulster should have won comfortably and they duly delivered with a first half performance that blew the Scarlets away.


The Front Row Union

"We can really look forward to rejuvenating and re-energising the performance pathway to help, support and push England rugby on."


Maurice Brosnan - Balls.ie

"I want to play my part in helping Connacht achieve their ambitious plans in the years to come."


Nigel Whittaker - Irish Independent

Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Friday, November 29, 2019

Preview : Glasgow Warriors v Leinster


If you flip a coin eight times and it lands on heads every single time, that's still no guarantee it's going to land heads on the ninth try.  You could also say that a rugby team that's won it's opening eight matches of a season isn't guaranteed to win its ninth, but that would be for different reasons.

When it comes to the coin, you're talking sheer probability.  On every spin, there are only two options.  Yet with team sports, the options are far greater, and that sport being rugby probably makes them infinite.

And I'd say the biggest bit of evidence that suggests Leinster are close to 'coming a cropper' is the reaction of their own fans to each of the wins so far.  "Not a great performance, but...", "Could've done better, but...", "Won't win if we play like that in May, but..." has been the gist of the comments from a large section of realistic supporters, all grasping for caveats - many no doubt genuine, many no doubt worried about invoking the 'jinx clause' of the Superstition Charter.

To be fair, there has been an element in our performances so far that do make you wonder if we can keep the run going without something of an improvement.  It's mostly when we have the ball - that may sound a bit strange when you consider we're number one in the league for both most points AND tries scored, but a couple of times on our travels, like at Zebre and Lyon, we had to rely on our (also league leading) defence a little more than we may have hoped.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if there was a match that looked like it could give us a back-to-earth-bringing defeat, it could be a late November visit to Glasgow.  Especially when that match falls smack back in the middle of two sets of two European fixtures, and even more especially when the Warriors, last year's beaten finalists, are keen to put their own poor start to the season behind them.

You can't help but notice the long shadow of the upcoming and potentially pool-deciding back-to-back series with the Northampton Saints hanging over this matchday 23.  That is of course not meant to disrespect any of them, but they will know what I mean, except for Devin Toner, of course.  He is clearly the glue of experience meant to hold the starting XV together, even if Ross Molony is the one carrying the armband.  I reckon between them they will do just fine in that area.

Our most eye-catching line is that from 11 to 15.  All five will have different reasons to want to prove themselves but my attention is mostly drawn to the O'Briens in the centre; I have a feeling their work together could either make or break our evening in Scotstoun.

Then there's Jamison Gibson-Park.  Big Dev may not be the only one who will be thinking he has a decent shot at starting in Franklin's Gardens next Saturday lunchtime.  Luke McGrath hasn't quite found his form since returning from Japan while the newly-Irish-qualified Kiwi has been doing really well in blue while he was gone - this could be a real opportunity.

As for the pack, talking of opportunity, I'm sure both James Tracy and Ed Byrne will be keen to keep their names fresh in the minds of the coaching staff after being leapfrogged by Rónan Kelleher since the start of the season.  Of course the rapid rise was justified by his performances, but it will be interesting to see if it inspires a response from others, and let's not forget a certain Nugget waiting in the wings.

But as often is the case with Leinster these days, most attention will be on our back row.  It's like we use a one-arm bandit to select it for every match yet still come up with a jackpot every time.  Let's see if Messrs Murphy, Connors and Doris can support that particular metaphor.

I can't see us approaching this match in any other way than if it were a full European fixture, because that's what I would do if I were the Warriors.  They need this win to stay in touch with the top three in a Conference A where they surely thought they'd be near the top even at the "one-third" mark.

The bookies actually concur that our first defeat is on the cards, giving the home side a four-point advantage with their odds.  I'm going to go against them this time and reverse it, saying we can win by four ourselves, but only with a similar defensive structure to that we brought to Lyon PLUS a dose of offensive magic from the young lineup.  Ross Byrne has a decent understanding with his surname-sake Adam in the realm of crossfield kicks and it could be in areas like this where our chances can be found.

Here's to my forecast coming true! JLP

Glasgow : 15. Ruaridh Jackson 14. Tommy Seymour 13. Huw Jones 12. Sam Johnson 11. Niko Matawalu 10. Pete Horne 9. Ali Price
1. Oli Kebble 2. George Turner 3. D’arcy Rae 4. Tim Swinson 5. Jonny Gray 6. Rob Harley 7. Chris Fusaro 8. Ryan Wilson (C)
16. Grant Stewart 17. Aki Seiuli 18. Adam Nicol 19. Kiran McDonald 20. Adam Ashe 21. Nick Frisby 22. Stafford McDowall 23. Kyle Steyn.

Guinness Pro 14 2019/20 - Round 7
Saturday, November 30, 2019
KO 7:35pm
Scotstoun

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
AR1: Mike Adamson (SRU)
AR2: Adam Jones (WRU)
TMO: John Mason (WRU)

Eir Sport, Premier Sports, DAZN

Front Five - 29.11.19

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

ICYMI click here for our list of
upcoming rugby on Irish TV


"It's always tough in Leinster. There's so many good players. There's always lads going to be ahead of you and behind you"


Irish Independent

 Joe liked his ‘special’ plays. But it’s not like studying Chemistry and being asked to sit a Geography paper.


Ronan O'Gara - Irish Examiner

"He wanted to stay and they have a lot of Irish-qualified players in that squad as it is."


The42.ie

"They’re first in our pool...so we know how big a challenge it’s going to be...with the way they hold on to the ball"


Stuart Bathgate - The Scotsman

...reaction to the new Crusaders logo has undoubtedly been mixed.


Stuff.co.nz

Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Rugby on TV : Nov 28-Dec 5

Rugby on TV is brought to you by
the IrishRugby TV YouTube channel


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 28

7AM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR - BT SPORT 2
11AM - WALES V FIJI (R) - CLASSIC RWC - EIR SPORT 2
12PM - OSPREYS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
1PM - NEW ZEALAND V PORTUGAL (R) - CLASSIC RWC - EIR SPORT 2
1:30PM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR - BT SPORT 1
2PM - CONNACHT V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
4PM - IRELAND V FRANCE (R) - CLASSIC RWC - EIR SPORT 1
6PM - OSPREYS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
7PM - MUNSTER V ULSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
8PM - CARDIFF V CHEETAHS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
9:30PM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR - BT SPORT 1

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29

6AM - SCARLETS V BENETTON (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
8AM - OSPREYS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
10AM - CARDIFF V CHEETAHS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
11AM - SOUTH AFRICA V JAPAN (R) - CLASSIC RWC - EIR SPORT 2
11:45AM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOU - BT SPORT 2
12PM - ZEBRE V GLASGOW (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
2PM - EDINBURGH V DRAGONS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
2PM - CHAMPIONS CUP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
3PM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR - BT SPORT 2
4PM - CONNACHT V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
4PM - SCARLETS V BENETTON (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
4:30PM - CHAMPIONS CUP HIGHLIGHTS (R) - BT SPORT 1
6PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 1
7PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
7PM - BATH V SARACENS (L) - PREMIERSHIP - BT SPORT 1
7:30PM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2, PREMIER SPORTS 1
10PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2, PREMIER SPORTS 2
10PM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
11:05PM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - TG4

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30

6AM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2

8AM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
9AM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1, PREMIER SPORTS 1
11AM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1 & 2
12:55PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
1PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
1PM - MUNSTER V RACING 92 (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIGIN MEDIA SPORT
1PM - BATH V SARACENS (R) - PREMIERSHIP - BT SPORT 2
2PM - ULSTER V CLÉRMONT (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
2:15PM - WALES V BARBARIANS (L) - CHANNEL 4
2:30PM - NORTHAMPTON V LEICESTER (L) - PREMIERSHIP - BT SPORT 2
2:45PM - WHERE'S YOUR PRIDE - DOCUMENTARY - EIR SPORT 1
2:55PM - BENETTON V CARDIFF (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2, FREESPORTS, PREMIER SPORTS 2
3PM - SARACENS V OSPREYS (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
4PM - THOMOND PARK - DOCUMENTARY - EIR SPORT 1
4PM - TOULOUSE V CONNACHT (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
4:30PM - CONNACHT V SOUTHERN KINGS (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1, TG4, PREMIER SPORTS 1
5PM - LYON V LEINSTER (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
5:10PM - DRAGONS V ZEBRE (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2, PREMIER SPORTS 2
7PM - GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1, PREMIER SPORTS 2
7:30PM - OSPREYS V CHEETAHS (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2, PREMIER SPORTS 1
10PM - BENETTON V CARDIFF (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
10PM - GLASGOW V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
11:10PM - GLASGOW V LEINSTER (H) - PRO 14 - TG4

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1


6AM - BENETTON V CARDIFF (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 1

8AM - OSPREYS V CHEETAHS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
10AM - DRAGONS V ZEBRE (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
11AM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
12PM - CONNACHT V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
12:30PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
1PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
2:30PM - HARLEQUINS V GLOUCESTER (L) - PREMIERSHIP - BT SPORT 2
3PM - BENETTON V CARDIFF (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
6PM - SCRUM V - BBC 2 WALES
6:30PM - OSPREYS V CHEETAHS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
8PM - CHAMPIONS CUP HIGHLIGHTS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
9PM - GLASGOW V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
9:30PM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
9PM - MUNSTER V RACING 92 (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
10PM - LYON V LEINSTER (H) - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
11PM - ULSTER V CLÉRMONT - CHAMPIONS CUP - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
11PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 3
11:30PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1

MONDAY, DECEMBER 2


9AM - CHAMPIONS CUP HIGHLIGHTS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

9:45AM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - PREMIER SPORT 1
11:30AM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
12PM - GLASGOW V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2
3:30PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
3:30PM - BENETTON V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - FREESPORTS
4PM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
5:30PM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
6PM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - FREESPORTS
8PM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - PREMIER SPORTS 2

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3


4AM - CONNACHT V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2

6AM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - PREMIER SPORTS 1
6AM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2
8AM - BENETTON V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - FREESPORTS
12:30PM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - PREMIER SPORTS 2
1:45PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
2PM - WALES V FIJI (R) - CLASSIC RWC - EIR SPORT 1
3:45PM - DRAGONS V ZEBRE (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2
4:15PM - PREMIERSHIP TONIGHT - BT SPORT 2
6PM - GLASGOW V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
7PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
8PM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
9:45PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 3

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4


4AM - MUNSTER V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2
8AM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - FREESPORTS
12PM - WELLINGTON V RUGBY SCHOOL (L) - CHAMPIONS TROPHY - FREESPORTS
12PM - PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS - PREMIER SPORTS 2
1:30PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
2:45PM - BEECHEN CLIFF V ST PAUL'S (L) - AASE LEAGUE - FREESPORTS
4PM - DRAGONS V ZEBRE (R) - EIR SPORT 1
6PM - CONNACHT V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - EIR SPORT 2
7PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 1
8PM - GLASGOW V LEINSTER (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
8PM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR - BT SPORT 3
10:30PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 1
11PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 2
11:30PM - THOMOND PARK - DOCUMENTARY - EIR SPORT 1


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5

6AM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 2
10:30AM - DUBAI SEVENS - SKY SPORTS ARENA
12PM - OSPREYS V CHEETAHS (R) - PRO 14 - PREMIER SPORTS 2
2PM - PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS - BT SPORT 1
4PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 2
4:30PM - RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR - BT SPORT 1
6PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 1
7PM - CONNACHT V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
8PM - ULSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
9PM - BENETTON V CARDIFF (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
11PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR - EIR SPORT 2

L = LIVE
R = FULL REPEAT
T = TAPE DELAY
H = HIGHLIGHTS

Times generally refer to beginning of broadcast not kickoff
Check local listings for repeat showings
Feel free to let us know if something is missing! paganoblog@gmail.com





Front Five - 28.11.19

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.


"Thankfully, we have won the two European games but I don't think the performances have been quite where we would like them to be."


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

...it is believed the IRFU are in discussions with making the centre a central contract offer


RTÉ Rugby

...van Graan is hopeful that Nick McCarthy, Neil Cronin, and 20-year-old Craig Casey can now step up to the mark.


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

"The salary cap is really easy"


RugbyPass.com

 "...when you have a young family that is happy and in a school and that has made their friends, to tell them you have to leave is hard."


Brendan O'Brien - Irish Examiner

Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Front Five - 27.11.19

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Had a feeling that lawsuit was coming


It’s some achievement for Leinster to replace such a stellar back row of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, and Dan Leavy over the last two seasons


Donal Lenihan - Irish Examiner

"There is nothing worse than a coach saying to an introvert, ‘I want you to give an opinion’ but you immediately knock them down for giving it."


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

 Bundee Aki, who did not travel to France due to a tight hamstring, is fit to go this weekend if needed.


Linley MacKenzie - Irish Times

The lawsuit argues that Rugby Australia breached their obligations by “failing to bring all material evidentiary matters to the attention of the Tribunal..."


RugbyPass

Clermont second row Paul Jedrasiak...had to leave the field for a HIA after the incident.


Irish Independent

Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Keego on...The Irish in Europe Week 2




Check out Keego's podcast
at thecouchpundit.podbean.com
So the Irish provinces marched into week 2 of Europe in fine fettle. The ghost of the cup that shall never be mentioned looks to have been exorcised after a clean sweep in week 1. Could they continue in week 2?
Starting on Friday 22nd. Ulster welcomed the euro powerhouse (and Leinster best fiend) Clermont to the Kingspan. A strong and confident start to the competition meant that the heads where up for the Norn Iron men. Clermont are always dangerous and would welcome an Irish scalp so early.
It started well for the home side. 17 minutes in and they got over the whitewash with a bully try. A try that demoralizes the opposition. A great start. Cooney continued the form that has people being Monday morning scrum halves (90 days later) saying he should have been in Japan, but the break has done him good. Hitting the ground running and creating his own try. An early contender for try of the season. The Lurgan dink (that Stockdale has perfected) became the Belfast book over the oncoming (and stressed) Clermont defense, sat up perfectly and finished by a player who looks like he wants to prove something. With 2 penalties, a conversion and a try on the day, Cooney looks to be leading the way for a start in green 9 jersey.
It finished 18-13, but let’s have a gander at the stats:
Ulster ran 200 more meters at 359. Had 58% possession for 60% territory, 9 clean breaks (0 for Clermont), offloaded twice, and conceded 17 turnovers (a slight worry). Ulster lost 3 of 12 scrums with 10/10 in the lineout (including some ballsy throws to the back under pressure). Ulster missed only 8 tackles of 96 (great work), Clermont missed 17. The big alarm bell for Ulster is the penalty count sitting at 16 that is just far too high. Clermont, while not at their best, conceded only 7. The last positive for Ulster is that the Clermont missed tackles are all over the pitch which shows a want to attack from everywhere.
A good day at the office for Ulster. The confidence is coming back with consistency.
Moving to a jam packed Thomond Park, Racing 92 arrived with their former Munster lads looking for a performance. The French sides are all still settling back into competition after the RWC (as Ireland are) so this would be interesting. Racing scored the first try after a free play afforded Finn Russell the opportunity to produce some rugby pornography for a chip through and collect, he is more consistent that the super valu click and collect. The Munster heads never dropped. Defended well but where caught by Teddy Thomas for another chip over and collect. The impetuous nature of a quick defense sometimes opens up space and this happened here. Well worth a watch on the highlights. 14-6 at the half hour mark. But just before half time (the championship minutes) Earls shows his class to force his way past a few defenders and to send the Munster team into he break with their heads up again. Massively important score from a massively important player.
The second half opened with Russell cutting through the Munster midfield like Freddy Kruger in his prime. Amazing to watch. Imhoff (and he certainly was when Russell made the pass) finishing the job, and putting the pressure back on the home side. 21-14 at 48 minutes. No scores until the last 7 mins. A free play at 73 mins resulted in a fantastic cross field kick finished by Conway. A fantastic conversion from JJ made it 21-21 and had a shot to win it, but the drop goal was not to be. It wasn’t his best effort from a relatively easy position but a really strong game from JJ.
Munster made some changes early, bringing Murray off at 62 minutes with the game in the balance shows that maybe he has some work to do to get back to form. Mathewson came on and played well. Outside of the issues Munster have at 10, it is important for this run to continue. The return leg will be interesting.
We fly from Thomond to France where Lyon (top 14 leaders) welcomed Leinster. This was a dogfight. The big scores put up by Leinster this season (3-0 win in Italy aside), was not going to happened. More D than a glass of orange juice (there was going to be a rude analogy there but this is a blog for everyone) and a showing of strength that will make them money as the season goes. Much like 2 seasons ago where teams knew they needed to put 3 scores on Leinster to knock them out, this is returning. The mix of experience with relative newbies has gone swimmingly. Kelleher / Deegan et al have been doing more than keeping the blue ship afloat in the senior player’s absences. At 21 minutes Leinster scored a try similar to Ulster, a bully try, a try that hurts the sole of the opposition. Max Deegan and that top notch haircut over for a try. He was so close to the ground that he could open a landscaping business. Big bully stuff from Leinster. Lyon never went away. Lyon didn’t get on the board until 66 minutes that was a penalty. 10 minutes later Sexton sunk a sitter for a 10 point lead. A minute later Lyon pressure resulted in another 3 points. This was going to be a tough finish. 13-6 at 78 minutes. At 81 minutes Leinster boot the ball from Lyon to Sandymount Dart station to get the game finished and leave with an impressive win.
Let’s have a look at the stats: Leinster ran 120 more meters at 344, operated with only 38% possession for 36% territory (shows the ability to score with very little ball), missed 16 of 170 tackles, conceded 12 penalties (a big number for Leinster), lost 2 of 10 lineouts and won 6/6 in the scrum, conceded 18 turnovers (not good) in comparison to Lyon 15. 11 clean breaks to Lyon 2 is a strong stat.
To win in France against the league leaders is always a good result. All about momentum and 3 of the 4 Irish provinces have that.
Moving down or up the road to Stade Toulousain and this game really upset me. Connacht had a fantastic opening weekend with a gutsy and deserved win against Montpellier and with players missing and injured, it was going to take that kind of shift again. But the heartbreaking thing is that they could have won this. Connacht continued to shoot themselves in the foot. The only stat needed here is penalty count, 13 conceded by Connacht to Stade’s 5. They knew they could squeeze out mistakes from Connacht. The game finished 32-17, but the Stade try in the 81st minute put some dulux on that result which isn’t really fair. Sport never is, but if Connacht can get the head right, revenge may be theirs in the sportsground.
Until next week.... Remember to tune into The Couch Pundit Podcast – www.thecouchpunditireland.com
Keego (@nkeegan): Blogger, professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.

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Front Five - 26.11.19

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

ICYMI click here for our
Lyon v Leinster writeup


"A real arm wrestle but playing against a big French team like that, I’m very proud of the lads."


Ciarán Kennedy - The42.ie

...with a clean slate, some players will feel they’ve a better chance of gaining recognition now than previously...


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

"We let it slip towards the end and it is hugely disappointing because we were in it to win it."


John Fallon - Irish Examiner

Transition is never an appealing status for any team. But it’s a much better look than inertia.


David Kelly - Irish Independent

Not everyone will know who Gordon Reid is, but you should after watching this.


Rugby Dump

Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Monday, November 25, 2019

Lyon-6 Leinster-13




I wouldn't say this is my biggest rugby bugbear (rug-bear?) of all but it's definitely in my top five.  Irish teams don't use drop goals anywhere near as often as they should IMO.  And the most ironic thing about it is that those particular "three-pointers" played a major part in both of our professional era Grand Slams.

For one thing, it's a handy way to make the most out of an attacking situation where you have already exhausted a number of phases in and around the 22 and the opposition D doesn't seem likely to buckle, nor does the ref seem likely to award you a penalty.  Be it the national team or any of the provinces, over the years the tendency always seems to be for us to either go for the rugby league style grubber through or more likely to persist with the picks-and-go.

My assertion is that if we keep the drop goal option higher on our list of playbook priorities, it could have us better primed for those situations in the final moments when a match/championship is on the line.  It won't always be the case that we'll have such world-class 10s like O'Gara and Sexton to call on at those times.

One top level competition where I do see the drop goal frequently used is the Top 14, and it's from watching their matches that I formed my opinion.  It might not be the sexiest thing to happen on a rugby pitch and you could definitely make a case for them to count for fewer points like in league, but for now they're a great way to keep the scoreboard ticking over.  But here's the thing...even for a French team, I thought what happened in the fourth minute at the Matmut Stade de Gerland was extraordinary.

Lyon took the kickoff and after a brief exchange of box kicks, Luke McGrath (who hasn't had a great opening couple of rounds and might be under pressure from JGP for the next couple) was the first to succumb to the damp conditions and spilled the catch in his own 22 to give the home side a wonderful early attacking opportunity.

After one reset, the scrum was solid and they proceeded to go through some phases around our 22, but before they even reached the 10th one, Sexton's former Racing team-mate Jonathan Wisniewski dropped into the pocket and attempted an early three points.

To be fair, our defense even for that relatively small number of tackles seemed to be as strong as it has been all season, but that's also part of my point.  Lyon were the home side, they've had a great overall start to the season as they lead the Top14, yet on their very first series of plays, they went for the three points.  I really don't think they could have shown more respect to our defensive organisation this season if their coaching staff actually bowed down before Leo, Stuart & co.

Probably because the kick missed it's mark, they weren't to go for this play again in the match; still, right up to the 80th minute and beyond, their attacking approach was clearly designed based on an assumption that trying to penetrate the blue wall by conventional methods just wasn't going to amount to much.

photo by Ian McDonald
So with our stinginess marker laid down before we really had a chance to do it ourselves, the question that remained was how we were going to establish a lead, and when some neat offloading at midfield saw Garry Ringrose break into the Lyon half, he was tackled high allowing "dead-eye Dick" to put us 3-0 ahead.

OK perhaps I should explain.  If you weren't watching BT Sport's coverage, that's what their commentator Scott Hastings (credit to Brian Donnelly for the name - of course I know who he is I just didn't know this was him!) called Johnny Sexton.  As his accent was distinctively Scottish, I assume that's a phrase that hails from that part of the world, which is fine.

But what became a trend from the commentary team was a tendency to get our players' names wrong.  To be a little fair to them, I can absolutely guarantee that if I were doing that job I would make verbal typos all over the place.  Still, the reason things like "Tad" Furlong (even if that is a common shortening for the same name in Scotland), and "George" Lowe (even if he was a former team mate of Ugo Monye's at Harlequins), caused myself and many other Irish fans irritation on twitter is because ever since BT Sport started covering the Heineken Champions Cup there has been a justified narrative whereby despite their being the only carrier of all games across Ireland & Britain, their coverage seems somewhat apathetic towards any club which does not play in the Premiership.  But I digress...

Play continued along a similar vein throughout the first half, with Lyon trying other means by which to get beyond the Leinster tackling cordon (cordon bleu? 🤔 - ooh, there's me title!!!) and to be fair, the little chip by Wisniewski with the likes of Charlie Ngatai and Toby Arnold doing the chasing did get some results on occasion.  However, they possibly went to that particular well one time too many...

With possession at halfway, and the play possibly a little too broken for this option, they went for it again and it was easily read by Josh van der Flier who managed to block, retrieve, run into space and eventually offload to James Ryan, who in turn surged all the way into the 22.  

From there, as has often been the case this season, he had excellent support to clear out the crucial first breakdown which meant we could reset and keep the front foot momentum going until eventually Max Deegan (who I noted in my preview has a knack for finding the try line) picked, went, and got over the line with a little help from a latch by Rhys Ruddock.

Since all three back rowers were involved in that move, I'd like to slightly digress once more to point out that as much as I'm one of Johnny Sexton's biggest fans, I thought the decision to award him Man of the Match was an extremely lazy one.  In fact, I don't think he'd even crack the top three since IMO all of our starting back row would be ahead of him, with Josh at the top thanks to another chart-leading 20 tackles plus a carry over from another good outing the previous week.

Anyway - Sexton did knock over the conversion to make it 10-0 to Leinster, which meant that "all" we had to do was maintain our defensive integrity and we'd get that coveted away victory in France.  Well it wasn't long before that integrity got its biggest and most prolonged test of the afternoon.


photo by Ian McDonald
Unfortunately Luke McGrath also gets negative marks in this sequence; after a Leinster scrum at midfield he was put under enough pressure by his opposite number Baptiste Couilloud (see pic - cheers Ian!) to cough up the ball and the Lyon 9 retrieved to bring it deep into our 22.  Luke did manage to stop him but on that breakdown Jordan Larmour jumped the gun slightly thinking the ball was out and got rightly yellow carded.

So here we had an even better attacking platform for the home side, with an extra man to boot.  But we'll never know what their overall plan was because on only the second carry after the scrum option they went for, a rushed pass was dropped by lock Hendrik Roodt to take all the air out of the situation.  I don't think I'd be crazy to suggest this outcome was also forced by our defense's reputation.

For the remainder of the sin-binning and all the way to the break, while we couldn't manage to bring the play too far into opposition territory, they continued to struggle to breach our line, with Larmour returning to the field after we denied a 13-phase set thanks to our usual blend of line speed, coordinated 2-man tackles and blanket coverage.

This relative ease continued into the second half, although along the way another aspect was starting to creep in to our side of the equation, namely the concession of penalties.  Our overall count of 12 was way, way too high for our liking, and even though Lyon shipped 10 themselves, if there was to be a second card flashed I reckon it should have been to us.

Particularly at mauls after lineouts, while I thought referee Luke Pearce had a decent enough day with the whistle particularly when it came to communication, it seemed like he first gave us a warning at a lineout, then another, then said nothing the next time before eventually issuing a 'final' one.  Trust me, I'm not complaining, merely acknowledging, but this was the kind of "getting away with murder" of which we often accuse the All Blacks.

There was one moment in the second half where Sexton did stand out, when he planted a monster hit on Lyon's English born number 8 Carl Fearns before our skipper himself got drew an elbow from hooker Mickael Ivaldi.  This drew a penalty after TMO review and as Pearce tried to explain the penalty to Couilloud, the Lyon captain gave this curious reply : "But he (Sexton) is strong!!!"

Anyway, back to Leinster's second final warning, we managed a good lineout denial when Fearns led a maul that seemed to break free before getting wrapped up by Deegan, Porter and Tracy, thus creating a choke tackle.  On the Fearns close up as he prepared for the scrum, you didn't need to be an expert lipreader to tell he was disappointed.

Then on the next Lyon lineout, we infringed AGAIN, and this gave us our final final warning.  I actually thought this call was harsh as I really don't think Ryan did anything to disrupt the jumper but the upshot was a penalty and once more the home side showed respect to our goal-line defence by gratefully taking the three points on offer instead of having another shot at five or more.

We seemed to be on our way to more front foot ball when Deegan broke into their half (after yet another unsuccesful Lyon chip I might add) and he shipped it to George James Lowe providing good support.  No doubt the Kiwi might have been a bit miffed to have played so little part in the previous 67 minutes but still, this was not the time to be trying a cheeky behind the back offload, even for him, and it was intercepted.

Yet try as they might, the 'Wolves' could not gain any traction with the ball.  Devin Toner ripped one free to end a bout of Lyon possession, JGP cleverly drew a penalty at a scrum in direct contrast to his team-mate earlier, and even when inside centre (though more of a second five eighth) Charlie Ngatai planted a clever crossfield kick that put Rob Kearney under pressure, the experienced full back made tidying the situation look way easier than it was.

Then with a penalty advantage coming next time (in fact the only real time in this half) we got close to their try line, Sexton dotted down under the posts only for it to be rightly called back as Ringrose's intended decoy run looked more like an illegal block.  Still, the penalty was enough to restore our lead to ten.

Just as Lyon were restarting, I was thinking I'd be really pissed off if we somehow let them away with even a losing bonus point at this stage, yet although we did ship a kickable penalty straight away, it was one of those 'accidental offsides' where Toner got his finger to the high ball only to knock it forward and Ringrose did the instinctive thing by catching it, so in a way that dampened my disappointment as the margin went back down to seven.

And although I did breathe something of a sigh of relief as Toby Arnold spilled the ball after a strong tackle by Deegan after the clock went red, even as they were clocking up the phases up to that point I wasn't as anxious as I have been on similar occasions in days gone by; because as I pointed out last week, the introduction of our bench to the action seems to do little if anything to change the integrity of Le Cordon Bleu.

So obviously, I was happy overall with the result.  If I hadn't have thought of the French pun, my title for this piece was going to be "That'll do!" because that was by far the most frequent response by Leinster fans on social media.  Possibly not enough points scored (though in fairness the French weren't too bad themselves defensively), and definitely too many penalties conceded, but an away win against the Top 14 leaders while keeping them tryless is certainly nothing to be sneezed at.

One thing is for sure, despite our more than satisfactory start to the campaign, we still have a lot of work to do.  Benetton showed in round 2 that they will be no easy proposition at home.  What's more, having dug deep to win at the death, the Northampton Saints will feel they have momentum to do a better job of playing us on their own turf than Lyon did.  And it's not like we have a rest weekend before then - I'm sure the Glasgow Warriors will be keen to take us down a peg or two in Scotstoun.

But I will keep on saying it because Leinster keep on proving it week in week out over the eight matches we have played this season no matter what XV (or even XIV) is on the park; if we can continue to intimidate our opposition into making high risk choices with the ball merely by the thought of facing our defense for the rest of the season, it will only lead to good things come next May.  JLP

PS - If you're easily bored by all things pedantic, you needn't read this bit...going back to the subject of BT Sport's coverage, this is a much, much smaller point than the one I made earlier which is why I'm leaving it outside the main article.


But as I was watching the match I couldn't help but notice the way they abbreviated the two team's names for the score graphic in the top left hand corner of the screen.  "Lyon", despite having only four letters, was reduced to "LYN", thus suggesting that they only had enough space for three.  Yet when they did "Leinster", they were somehow able to shorten it to "LEIN".... 

Yes, I know, it's a dumb thing to notice, but I can't help how my nerdy mind works 😋




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